Sunday, January 28, 2007


Whether you call it VOLver or BOLber, this is a really enjoyable movie. S and I went on opening night to the very crowded Baxter Avenue Theater. We had to choose between Volver and Notes on a Scandal. I wanted to see Notes, S wanted to see Volver, so (to steal a line from a TV commercial) we compromised and saw Volver. No, not really. I was up for both so we mutually agreed to see Volver. Any suggestion to the contrary is slander. But enough about me, this is about Volver.

This is a visually beautiful movie, from the landscape to the clothing to the food. Almodovar went out of his way, too, to make an advantage of Penelope Cruz from every angle. Seriously, there are a couple of shots here where there seemed to be no objective but to present her bosom. The story revolves (rebolbes?) around three women in Spain, each in her on way on a journey to deeper maturity. Two sisters, Raimunda and Sole, played by Cruz and Lola Dueñas, and Raimunda's daughter, Paula (21 year old actress Johana Cobo, playing a much younger-looking character).

This is a movie that deals with difficult themes, hard to elaborate without spoiling, so suffice it to say there's some life and some death, some violence, some cooking, lots of cooking actually. There's a lot of air-kissing. There's a wake, fascinating in it's character as old-fashioned European Catholic. With more air-kissing. There's a reunion of sorts. There's also a plot twist.

So if my reflections on the film seem intricate and messy, it's because the plot is like that--to great dramatic effect. This is a movie about relationships and life, and how badly we can mess them each up. It's also about love and redemption, made to look easier, perhaps, than they really are. It's about denial and vengeance and justice, and about deception and confession.

So Volver is a movie about hard living and dealing with tragedy and overcoming adversity. It would be easy for a movie about these things to be depressing, or saccharine, or maudlin. But this movie is none of those things. It is a little sweet, but not to an extreme. More importantly, it's provocative and entertaining. A great movie for date night, with something for everyone.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Why We [Still] Can't Wait.

Reflect on this:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now hear and see this:

The story carried by KOMO TV

The Documentary posted on You Tube

Now go out into the world and be committed to lifting up hearts.

Go out into the world and "live out the true meaning of [our] creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"

Go out into the world and "make justice a reality for all of God's children."

We really can't wait.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Children of Men, indeed!

I was reminded kindly by a friend and co-worker of my neglecting to mention this movie in my last post. It was not, technically, that I had forgotten about having seen it. On the contrary, I have been quite unable to forget it. It's a very powerful, provocative, and startling movie to watch. Instead, I was just tossing off that blog entry to break the silence and for an other, much geekier, purpose than reflecting on great cinema. I've set out to solve a bit of a problem, that being my interest in hanging out sometimes with the alumni on Facebook, sometimes with the hipsters who are moving on to, sometimes with the very lonely and beautiful web-camera girls that continue incessantly to invite me to add them as friends on MySpace, and sometimes I just want to be alone on blogger. But that's an awful lot of overhead to have to make an appearance on each site from time to time--just to prove I'm still really there. So, I've rigged up an almost complete solution. I've found that I can write on blogger. Then I have that automatically sent via email to, which then gets picked up by Facebook and Wallop. Now if I could just figure out something for Myspace. Mind you, I told you it was geeky. But in my defense, I started out creating a profile on all those sites just out of voyeuristic curiosity--mesmerized by technological innovation (which IS my job after all) and intrigued by the rampant tales of tawdry titillation. But then, a funny thing happened. I found friends in all those places. One former college roommate; one former school mate who seems to not want to talk to me--you KNOW who you are Corbin; a host of present co-workers and friends; and even a couple of nephews-in-law who remind me just how old I am, just how much more fun college is than post-college, and just how much better the food and lodging is once one's career is good and off the ground.

So, what has that to do with Children of Men? Nothing. So here:

Children of Men is a movie I couldn't take my eyes off of--even when I really wanted to. The technical qualities are stunning, from the understated depiction of the near future, to the epic sized cast, to the not so subtle critiques of current western cultural, political, and economic absurdity. The basic premise, not really a spoiler at all, is the setting--a world where women have lost the ability to bear children. It's a hero's journey plot, with some of the great formulaic elements of great classic hero myths. He's not really that heroic, he often has to have someone else save his ass, and he (at least at the beginning) starts out with little or no interest in being a hero.

At least one review I read made reference to a "chase" scene in the woods. But I think I know what they were referring to and I didn't really think of it as a chase. I'd call it a journey. But it is some of the most dramatically arresting film-making I've ever seen. It's a pivotal moment in the plot of the movie--one of several in a shell-game of a narrative where you eventually come to realize the stakes that are in play.

There were moments when the plot seems contrived. I mean, I think they had to make some overstated predictions about the despicable potential of human nature. There was some gratuitous violence--even for a movie that seems bent on critiquing a culture whose bloodthirstiness, even in the midst of a put-on preference for pacifism and diplomacy, seems to have well-outlived its actual usefulness. But the cast was outstanding. Bravos in particular for Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, and Michael Caine (who provides much needed comic relief while also being essential to the movement of the plot).

This is not a perfect movie, but it's really, really good. I was affected by it almost to the point of hyperactive insomnia. (Think of the opening scenes charging the beach in Saving Private Ryan--it's that kind of intense). Again, not wanting to spoil it, but if you go not knowing what to expect, you could end up finding yourself sick.

The story is based on a P.D. James novel. I haven't read it, but the premise and plot seemed quite a departure from what I'd call her "style." So I'd be curious to hear the thoughts of people who have read the book. Maybe I'll even pick it up myself. As you'd expect from James, there are rich religious undertones. And in this case, they teeter between the blatant criticism of old-fashioned jeremiad and the the stylized caricatures of Enlightenment satire. Sadly, the most useful conclusions will almost certainly fail to have any impact on those most in need of facing them. But Lady James will certainly be able to say "I told you so."

Have a happy day.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A cultural amalgam

short takes on current events

Tom Waits' "Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards"

This was wrapped up and under the tree for Christmas. I've had a chance to listen to it several times now. It's a great collection of songs, most original--maybe all. There are five or six songs that are instant classics. He has a few songs you can listen to on his myspace page. It's definitely worth checking out.

Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes were Watching God

So I confess I've never read this. But apparently the whole city will be reading it during the month of February. So get your hands on a copy and let's see what this is like.

The Good Shepherd

Went to see this a week or so ago. Found it to be a really enjoyable move. Well photographed, good music, smart story that keeps you wondering (even after the movie ends). Highly recommended.

Lyle Lovett

Will be in concert in Louisville this weekend and I'm looking foreward to seeing him. He's appearing with an all-star group that also includes Joe Ely. I've never seen Lovett live but I have high hopes. Review to come.

Johnnie Berry and Roller Derby?

Saturday at Headliners. What more is there to say about that combination. I really do feel like I should go buy overalls.